Two volunteer firefighters in Australia have died during the ongoing operation to contain the devastating bushfires on the country’s east coast.
Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, were killed on Thursday when the fire truck they were travelling in hit a tree and rolled over and crashed just south of Sydney.
The two men were in the front of the truck, and police added that three other passengers survived with a few injuries.
In a statement, New South Wales’ Rural Fire Service said: “This is an absolutely devastating event in what has already been an incredibly difficult day and fire season.”
On the same day, three other firefighters became caught up in the flames, as winds fuelled bushfires across the region.
Two men with burns to their faces, arms and legs were rescued by a helicopter and airlifted to hospital, while a woman was taken to hospital in an ambulance.
On Wednesday, a state of emergency was declared in New South Wales, after Australia broke its heat records for the second day running, with maximum temperatures reaching an average of 41.9C.
The country’s prime minister, Scott Morrison has come under criticism in recent days, over his decision to take an overseas holiday to Hawaii during the blazes.
However, on Friday morning (Thursday evening in the UK), Mr Morrison issued a statement, saying he would be returning to Australia as soon as possible.
“I deeply regret any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time,” Morrison said.
Around 500 protesters gathered outside the prime minister’s home in Sydney on Thursday, demanding urgent action on climate change – an issue over which his government has faced repeated criticism.
Australian’s will not face a let up in the heat any time soon, despite the slightly cooler conditions on Friday, with meteorologists predicting the record-high temperatures would return on Saturday – fuelling the ongoing bushfires.